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News & Notes

OneFund-2 Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick announced The One Fund Boston, to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon. To contribute to The One Fund Boston, go to theonefundboston.org.

The Atlantic Cities: How President Obama’s Budget Proposal Would Affect Cities

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, released [last week], focuses on economic growth and a strong middle class. Better urban development isn’t the first item on that agenda, but it’s an important part of the administration’s priorities for the coming year.

Three agencies in particular are at the core of that work, with offices dedicated to making sure community development contributes to regional and national economic growth. The president’s 2014 budget would change how each of these agencies invest in community development.


The Atlantic Cities: New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First

[I]n the Second City – as in just about every American metro – autos have long dominated city streets and how we think about who uses them, why they exist and what defines them as successful. This summer, though, Chicago is planning to roll out a small-sounding but seismic policy shift: From now on, in the design guidelines for every effort from major streetscape projects to minor roadside electrical work, transportation work must defer to a new “default modal hierarchy.” The pedestrian comes first.

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News & Notes


The Atlantic Cities: The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis

In the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, these consumers [baby boomers] were at their peak family size and peak income. And suddenly, there was massive demand in America from the same kinds of people for the same kinds of housing: big, large-lot single-family homes (often in suburbia). In those two decades, calculates researcher Arthur C. Nelson, 77 percent of demand for new housing construction in America was driven by this trend.

“Ok, if there’s 1.5 to 2 million homes coming on the market every year at the end of this decade from senior households selling off,” Nelson asks, “who’s behind them to buy? My guess is not enough.”


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News & Notes

StreetFilms: San Francisco: Reclaiming Streets With Innovative Solutions

Tom Radulovich, the executive director of the local non-profit Livable City, describes the recent livable streets achievements in San Francisco as “tactical urbanism” — using low-cost materials like paint and bollards to reclaim street space.

That willingness to experiment was a big reason that the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) gave its 2012 Sustainable Transport Award to San Francisco (an honor shared with Medellín, Colombia). In this Streetfilm we profile the innovations that earned SF recognition from ITDP.


ArtInfo: Pop-Up Populism: How the Temporary Architecture Craze is Changing Our Relationship to the Built Environment

America is fast becoming a pop-up nation. From sea to shining sea, her cities have been swept up in the frenzy for temporary architecture: Brooklyn vendors sell their wares in artfully arranged shipping containers; Dallas’s Build a Better Block group champions DIY painted bicycle routes and pop-up small businesses; architects in San Francisco are repurposing metered parking spaces into miniature parks; residents in Oakland, California rallied to create an entire pop-up neighborhood. The phenomenon has even climbed its way from grassroots origins to the agendas of local authorities: D.C.’s office of planning sprouted a Temporary Urbanism Initiative, while New York’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is implementing what she calls “Jane Jacobs’s revenge on Robert Moses” with her fast-acting interventions favoring pedestrians and cyclists. The temporary, so it seems, is overtaking the permanent. But how permanent is our current fascination for the temporary?


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News & Notes

Commute

Photo (cc) Dave Fayram

News & Notes Safety Keeps Pittsburgh Cyclists from Becoming Bike Commuters [Transportation Nation]

There is a bit of a catch 22 to increasing cyclist numbers though. Until cycling is widely considered safe, new cyclists won’t start riding to work. The solution, Pucher argues, is infrastructure. Pucher says the absence of bike lanes means only a small segment of the population is willing to ride to work.


Why small cities are poised for success in an oil-starved future [Grist]

So how do these small cities, long derided as provincial and irrelevant, prepare for the future that Tumber sees coming? She focuses on several broad topics: controlling sprawl and redeveloping the suburban fringe, developing agriculture in and around the city, reviving small-scale manufacturing, and redesigning economic networks and school systems. All of these topics involve interlocking policy conundrums that may be more easily navigated in small cities, where relationships are closer and bureaucracy less entangling.


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News & Notes

Start-Ups Are Drawn to Pulse of Downtown [The Wall Street Journal]

“We used to be located in the Redwood Shores area, but I didn’t like it because it was too remote,” says Bill Demas, chief executive of Turn, which moved into a 10,000-square-foot office in the restored late 19th-century Alhambra building in downtown Redwood City in January. “We wanted to be in a more urban location, we wanted more restaurants and bars near us.

We have restaurants and bars in Providence…

San Francisco Passes First Open Data Law [Fast Company]

The law is brief. It simply says city’s departments and agencies “shall make reasonable efforts” to publish any data under their control — provided that doing so does not violate other laws, particularly those related to privacy. The Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance unanimously.

Open data, Newsom believes, makes city government more transparent and increases accountability. But it also makes life better for residents because tools can be made on top of the city’s data that the city itself never would have made. As the ordinance says, it benefits the city via the “mobilization of San Francisco’s high-tech workforce… to create useful civic tools at no cost to the City.”

Vinyl couldn’t be less sustainable [New Urban Network]

That which makes the absurd claim of being “maintenance-free” is not. When so-called “maintenance-free” materials fail, they fail catastrophically, and you have to cart it all off to the landfill. Haven’t we had enough of that?

Can we eliminate death and serious injury from roadways? [Greater Greater Washington]

A generation ago, we recognized the role of vehicle safety and created a vehicle-based safety culture focused on seat belts, air bags, and anti-lock brakes. The safety culture then broadened to include operator behavior, with a focus on drunk driving, road rage, and distracted driving. It’s time to systematically include roadway design in our safety culture.

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News & Notes

Public access to S.F. bay tied to private projects [SFGate]

“The public-private seam is a delicate one,” APA chief executive officer Paul Farmer mused before the award ceremony here last Wednesday. “There are tricky things involved – how do you negotiate access with a developer? How do you make public access feel truly public? When it’s done well, that’s something to recognize.”

Americans not hitting their walking stride [Yahoo! News]

Adults in western Australia average 9,695 steps a day. The Swiss followed with 9,650, while the Japanese clocked in with 7,168 steps. But Americans straggled far behind with just 5,117 steps.

He attributes the more active lifestyle of adults in other countries to their greater access to mass transit

The drive-not-walk mentality has dismal consequences. In the United States, 34 percent of adults are obese. During the past decade Australia, Japan and Switzerland have reported obesity rates of 16 percent, 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Now I want to get a pedometer so I can see how I compare.

Plan to reduce sprawl will boost health, environment [The Washington Post]

Oil dependency, climate change and health-care costs are but three of a growing list of ills, rapidly becoming crises, that give us reason to look again at how we build our communities and what policy can do about it.

The article’s authors are Andres Duany, known in Providence for hosting a Downcity charrette several years back, and his co-author of the book Suburban Nation, Jeff Speck.

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News & Notes

SFGate: Footbridge an elegant new icon in East Bay

The 600-foot-long arc not only eases the way for pedestrians and bicyclists, it also sends a message naysayers choose to ignore: our society should aim to produce civic works on par with cherished landmarks from the New Deal or the Carnegie libraries of the generation before that.

This larger cultural role is what civic infrastructure can achieve when built with ambition and the long-term view. Contra Costa’s Redevelopment Agency deserves credit for pulling together the funding from county, state and federal sources.

The word “icon” is used far too often in architectural hype. But at its own modest scale, Robert I. Schroder Overcrossing shows what an icon can be. You don’t expect to see it; once you do, you’re glad it’s there. And you look forward to seeing and experiencing it again.


American Planning Association: 10 Best Public Spaces of 2010

Maybe someday Kennedy Plaza will make the list.


The Gondola Project at Creative Urban Projects: Rio to Open Urban Gondola System This Year

Peter Brassard touched upon aerial trams, or gondollas, in his recent post and here is another urban system to add to the list in Brazil. As Rio prepares to host the Olympics in 2016(?) this is one of the infrastructure projects they have been working on.

In this article I even learned a new term, CPT meaning Cable Propelled Transit system. Add that to the lexicon of BRT, LRT, TOD, and other transit acronyms.


Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Public Space Project and Shared Space-Harvard Square-Woonerf Streets

But in Europe, designers are taking it a step further – removing traffic signals and signage altogether, relying on the human ability to adapt and communicate with other drivers and pedestrians by entering an intersection or traveling down a street and figuring it all out. It’s a counter-intuitive notion to be sure, based in the Dutch concept of the “woonerf,” a street that eliminates the strict separation of uses and instead invites a civil set of ad-hoc rules and eye contact. Woonerfs are all around us – the valet area in front of a hotel, or the parking lot in front of Target. Everybody slows down because there is an obvious mix of parking and getting out of cars and moving around on foot.

I mention woonerfs here from time to time and at some point really should devote an entire post to the concept, but until I get around to it, this post is a really good introduction to the concept.

A woonerf plaza outside City Hall is included in the Vision For Kennedy Plaza and I often walk down the alley I live on on Federal Hill and imagine it transformed into a shared space. Let’s try to introduce “woonerf” into the Providence lexicon.


Market Urbanism “Urbanism for Capitalists/Capitalism for Urbanists”: The inanity of airport connectors

The airport connector is a special beast of a rail-based transit system that’s a relatively recent phenomenon outside of transit-dense regions like Western Europe and Japan. So manifestly wasteful that it generates more animosity towards mass transit than it does riders, it’s a project that only politicians and unions could love. Unlike more integrated networks where the airport is just one station on an otherwise viable route (like Philadelphia’s Airport Line or DC’s proposed Silver Line), airport connectors generally serve only the airport and one local hub. With no purpose other than to get people in and out of the airport, they provide neither ancillary transit benefits nor TOD opportunities. Oftentimes they don’t even reach downtown, acting instead like glorified park-and-rides.

Luckily our connector is one stop on a line that runs from Boston and eventually past the airport onto Wickford Junction and maybe Westerly, New London, who knows… It is one of the good ones…

[…] with the Rhode Island DOT recently reaching a deal on its $267 million “Interlink” project, which entails building a station at the airport on an existing line, along with a commuter parking garage and a rental car facility. The station is only expected to see six trains a day initially, which is probably for the best since Providence’s T.F. Green Airport isn’t exactly O’Hare. No word on whether any additional density is being allowed around the new station, but something tells me the answer is no.

Sigh. The City of Warwick established the Warwick Station Redevelopment Agency years ago to guide development in the “Metro Center” area around the station. RIPTA is keen on transforming bus services in Kent County to focus transportation on the new station, making it a transit hub not just for air and rail, but for buses, further fueling the transit oriented development potential of the station area.

Yup, T.F. Green is not O’Hare, for that matter neither is Logan or BWI or LaGuardia or JFK or LAX. 6 trains a day, initially, yes. But once Wickford Junction opens next year, that number goes up. The Interlink is not about getting people to and from planes full stop, it is much more than that. It is a commuter link for Kent County and South County, it is an economic development tool for the City of Warwick and the airport.

Kevin Dillon, President and CEO of RIAC pointed out in rebutting Joe Paolino’s characterization of the Interlink as a “boondoggle” on GoLocalProv that low cost European carriers are looking at the northeast and at T.F. Green in particular. Why Green and not Bradley or Manchester? Because of the Interlink.

[airport connectors] are often a sort of cargo cult urbanism that seeks to emulate the frills of good transit systems isn’t willing to make the hard decisions necessary to actually build a robust network and allow the density to fill it. In the case of the the Providence airport, lawmakers said they hoped the station would attract international service to the currently domestic-only airport – as if Providence can acquire the amenities of a big city without allowing itself to become one.

There will undoubtedly be some NIMBY hurdles to overcome regarding density along the rail line, especially if we add a station in Cranston (can you imagine, denisty in Cranston!?), but the whole point of the southern push of commuter rail is to build density where it makes sense, along the transit line, and to aid people who live further from it in leaving their cars somewhere other than downtown (or idling on the highway getting to downtown).

The line about Providence trying to attract big city amenities without actually allowing itself to become a big city… that I just don’t get. Again, there will always be NIMBYism surrounding growth, but I think political leaders, the business community, and a good deal of the citizenry would be more than happy to see the city become bigger. At the very least, if we grew it would be indicative of our economy emerging from the toilet.

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News & Notes

Deadliest for Walkers: Male Drivers, Left Turns [The New York Times]

How To Raise Fares [Planetizen]
Incentivize people to use pre-paid fare products to speed bus boarding by only raising fares for slower cash transactions

Residents Who Live Near Public Transportation Live Healthier, Longer Lives, Study Finds [American Public Transportation Association]

Ceremony kicks off the United States’ high speed future [The Independent]

It is OK to drool

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News & Notes

2 year closure of Union Avenue Bridge over Route 10 prompts free RIPTA service for pedestrians impacted by closure [ProJo]. With Route 18 only running 17 times on weekdays and not at all on Sundays and Holidays, I’m glad I don’t live on the farside of Union Avenue.

Four Projects to Watch (And Seven Others to Remember) [NewportNow]

Not About the Buildings Spelling Bee June 21st, AS220.

City panel to decide on rezoning Allens Avenue [PBN]

Topological crime maps of San Franscisco [Strange Maps]

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Parklets


Photo (cc) sfbike

San Francisco StreetsBlog reports on the city’s Pavement to Parks initiative.

On Divisadero, the city has taken two parking spaces from the street and created space for bike racks, planters, and cafe tables.

“This is all about taking the narrative of the 25 percent of our land mass that [is] streets, and begin to take a little bit of that back and open that up for the community and create a framework where there is a stronger community connection, a stronger sense of place and a better community environment as well,” said [San Francisco Mayor Gavin] Newsom.

The parklets cost $15,000 each and the Mayor has pledged to create 12 in 2010.


Photo from San Francisco StreetsBlog

Of course I see this and immediately start thinking of where this would work in Providence. Atwells Avenue leaps to mind.

Really, there is barely any street parking on Atwells, every damn restaurant has their own valet parking reserved spaces side by each lined all the way down the avenue. The restaurants should team up on parking. Make 3 or 4 valet loading zones up and down the avenue. One would be able to park at any valet zone, and pick their car at any other zone. The valets would be connected by radio and be able to retrieve the cars to where their driver’s end up.

This frees up dozens of street spaces which we could turn into parklets. Having these extensions of the sidewalk would then enable people to actually walk down Atwells. The way it is now, the sidewalk tables take up the whole damn sidewalk and you can’t walk down the street without landing in someone’s calamari.

When I was in Spain I saw many of these sidewalk extensions. A commenter on the StreetsBlog post remembers them from Spain as well and notes that they are on wheels to allow for removal for street cleaning. One mitigating factor for us would be having to remove and store them in the winter to allow for snow removal. Of course we could get around that by not making these temporary, but by actually extending the sidewalks into the street.

And Atwells is not the only area where this would be a welcome addition to the streetscape of course. I could see these on Thayer, Hope Village, Broad Street…

[Andres Power, Pavement to Parks project manager for the Planning Department said] “We’ve gotten calls from New York City, Portland, Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC inquiring about how we are making these happen.”

Providence should call.

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San Francisco left turn bike lane

The Wiggle” is one of San Francisco’s most beloved and cherished bike routes and guides riders the easiest way between two nasty hills.

[T]he SF DOT striped a unique combo to aid cyclist’s safety and sanity. A green bike box on Scott Street – believed to be California’s first – allows riders to safely wait and queue up for a dedicated left-hand turn lane which runs the length of the entire next block.

Via: StreetFilms.

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Temporary Architecture

octaviakl1

Rendering from Envelope Architecture + Design

As we start to look towards redeveloping 19 acres of land in the center of our city, during the worst economic downturn in a generation, it is apparent that we need to start thinking outside the proverbial box.

Envelope A+D of Oakland, California shows the way with Proxy. The project looks for a temporary use for a block of surface parking along San Francisco’s recently rebuilt Octavia Street. Octavia Street/Boulevard itself being an interesting story of elevated freeway removal, not entirely disimilar to the Iway project (though SF simply removed their freeway instead of moving it elsewhere as the Iway does). The city wishes to see the parcels developed with a permanent structure, however the economy is conspiring against that for the near future.

Proxy will use recyclable and re-usable materials to build a temporary structure housing retail, food, entertainment, and other community uses. The small retail spaces are envisioned to be occupied by local vendors in various configurations through the 2 to 3 year lifespan of the structure. For more details visit the Envelope A+D site.

Would a project like this be a good fit for Providence and the Iway land? If so, where should a project like this go and who should occupy it (Taqueria Pacifica perhaps)?

Via: The Architect’s Newspaper Blog

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